Friday, March 27, 2015

Ohio Order for the Preservation of Storytelling Conference This Weekend, and the Beginnings of a Story

It's here! The OOPS Conference is just around the corner. It will be such a pleasure to see storytelling friends again, listen to stories and talk about stories. And present my workshop, Seeking the Spirits, all about finding and telling ghost stories.

I am ready--my bags are packed, my resources are priced and packed, my handouts have been emailed so that copies will be made for participants, my van is cleaned up and all that is left is to get on the road.

I'll be back with stories and adventures, I'm sure. Meanwhile, here's the bones of a story I am researching. It's the story of one of WestVirginia's worst mine disasters, and of the strange appearance of a woman in white who appeared to a trapped miner.

from http://www.laylandminersmemorial.org
Was it an angel Bill Derenge saw in the tunnel that night? Or an apparition trying to lure him deeper into the mine? She was dressed all in white and carried a light, and she beckoned him to follow her into the darkness.

William Derenge resisted the specter. Perhaps she was an omen, perhaps he dreamed her as he and 46 other men began to drift in and out of consciousness as they waited for rescue. Derenge would never know for certain just what he saw that dark hour.

The explosion had been terrible, shattering windows all over the small coal mining town of Layland, WV. Tunnels filled with rock, dust and deadly gas. Some men escaped; some perished almost immediately while others died lingering deaths waiting for rescue that never came. And 47 holed up, blocked off an area where the air was still good, and hunkered down. Surely they would be found. Surely.

Derenge, oddly enough, had only been on the job in this mine for a few minutes. He'd been a miner in the Eccles, WV mine the year before when that mine also exploded, killing over 180 men. And now he was once again trapped below ground. It was March 1, 1915.

from http://www.wvenclopedia.org
One of the trapped miners was an Italian immigrant named Tony, or Antonio Abbate. There were many immigrants working this mine, men referred to in the news accounts of the day as "foreigners." Tony laughed and joked with the men and talked about his girlfriend Angel, who he was sure would be waiting for him when they were rescued. His confidence never waivered although some of the men, including Derenge, wrote out wills and last letters to their families.

So what did William Derenge see in the gloom of the mine? An angel, or something more ominous?

...and that is as far as I have gotten with this story. But it's beginning to take form and perhaps, one day, it will be one of the stories I tell.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Of Storytelling, Furniture and Such

What I love about my life is its variety. I am never bored as each day flies by. Here's a bit of what we've been up to recently.

Storytelling: last week I told stories for Sand Fork Elementary School in Gilmer county, WV.

It's a very rural area with good farmland, big creeks and an old school soon to be replaced by a larger consolidated school in a nearby town.


When I arrived a boy called out, "Hi Granny Sue!" I am not sure how he knew me as there were no photos posted--perhaps he saw me at some other event? I felt welcome and as if I was visiting friends. We had a grand time with some Appalachian stories--stories about that rowdy boy named Jack, tall tales and stories from Larry's and my childhoods, and of course we sang too. It had been a while since I told stories with children and the joy came back full force.

Furniture: several projects are ongoing or completed.

Before:
 In progress: 2 of these chairs with a square table. The seats will be re-covered with a "Paris" theme cloth.


This is finished at last! I rolled this big top around the log room for a month, honestly, just putting off finishing it. I still need to find some chairs to go with it but I'm not too worried about that. I'm just glad to get this big boy done!

Larry refinished this old tool box, stripping off lots of ugly paint--not the kind of paint that could be made look cool distressed.

Another project that had me pulling out my hair, this round oak end table. I love the way it looks now but my goodness it was difficult to paint! I don't have the best lighting in my work area and painting black in the dark...well, you can see the problem. I finally rigged up some lighting and used Brightest Flashlight app on my cell phone to be sure I had it all covered. The things we do.


I wish I had a before of this chimney cupboard. Rough is not good enough to describe it. Larry took it on, replacing the back and most of the shelves, then repainting. I was going to keep it but Marietta mall called and had sold a desk we had there--we needed something fast but nothing was ready! So this one went off to the booth. If I can get something ready soon I'll bring it back home. I priced it high enough that it's not likely to sell, but if it does, well, we have another one in another booth so I'll bring that one home.


This was a fun project for me. I bought this shade on another lamp. That lamp needed a glass shade, not one like this. I just happened to have a glass one so I replaced it, then I painted a lamp that was blue with those geese on it from the 90's. I used a butter yellow chalk paint, and I love the result. This one is a keeper, at least for a little while.

Other projects for us: cleaning up the gardens, planning a trip to Oregon this summer and one to Florida in the next few weeks, and several storytelling events coming up soon.

And then there are those firepit evenings and sunsets...


Right now I've got to get back to work on my next storytelling adventure, so I'll sign off and get to it. Have the best of days, my friends.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Morning Work

This morning was desk work. It's time to pay bills and catch up on a few things.

First on the list after bills was to finish up the postcard mailing for summer reading program promotion to West Virginia libraries. I'm behind the ball this year--usually I mail these in late February/early March. Where did this month go?? Oh, that's right, taxes. Paperwork is my Achilles heel, probably because it requires me to stay seated in one place for long periods of time, something I dislike very much. My last job at the library was one of those administrative, mostly computer and paperwork kinds of jobs so it's no wonder I was so miserable. Now that I'm retired, I swear I have to force myself into the chair to do this kind of work. Now writing is different, I suppose because it taps into a different part of the brain, the creative side, whereas numbers and data entry use something else.

I hand-write the address on the postcards, all 200 or so of them. I have labels created but there is something satisfying to me about writing out the addresses, and besides, who doesn't like getting a hand-addressed note or card? Some marketing companies recognize this as they use print fonts on bulk mail envelopes to make them look handwritten.

So I can mark one more thing off of my to-do list. In a week or so I'll make a few follow-up calls which can be effective in booking more work. But at least this step is done, and I can move my mind to the more immediate project coming up this weekend: leading my workshop on finding, researching and telling ghost stories. And following that is a program on ballads and presentations for an annual edible cake contest and a Road Scholar program. It's spring and storytelling work is picking up.

I enjoy my slower winters; it gives me time to work on things at home (like my kitchen!) and gather myself for the coming year. Soon I will be on the road again traveling to who-knows-where to tell stories, see intriguing places, talk to interesting people and post lots of photos and stories about it all.

Such a life! I highly recommend it.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.
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